New rules - Old games? Social capital and privatisation in France, 1986-1998

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This article focuses on social capital among the French business elite, the period under study coinciding with the implementation of privatisation programmes in France from 1986 to 1998. The Chirac government (1986-1988) sought to change the rules of the economic game, the political aspirations invested in privatisation centring on the free play of market forces and competition, to which the programme purported to reconcile the public at large. The article reveals how privatisation, far from breaking with the past by widening participation in economic life, strengthened the ties that bind the French establishment elite through the concentration of power in 'hard cores' of stable investors in newly privatised firms. High levels of social capital within the French national business system ensured that members of the ruling elite, united by multiple ties and similar backgrounds, connived, as before, to manipulate institutions and situations in their perceived collective interest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-810
Number of pages16
JournalBusiness History
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Elites
  • French national business system
  • Networks
  • Privatisation
  • Social capital
  • State-business relations


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